Seven months after passengers on Pakistan International Airlines flight 370 mutinied against VIPs for abusing their privilege and delaying the flight by over 30 minutes, a National Assembly committee has lodged a First Information Report (FIR) against Arjumand Hussain for “creating public disorder.”
Cellphone videos of the anti-VIP protest on PIA’s Sept. 15 Karachi-to-Islamabad flight—featuring Hussain and a diverse group of dissenting passengers—went viral last year, inspiring an anti-VIP movement in Pakistan and neighboring India. The flight was initially delayed due to a technical fault, and incurred another 25-minute delay due to the late arrival of former interior minister Rehman Malik. Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankhwani, a Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) lawmaker, was also tardy and forced to disembark prior to takeoff.
Shortly after the video was released online, Hussain was laid off as a general manager at Gerry’s Group, a logistics company, amid speculation that the decision had been politically motivated. Since his dismissal, Hussain has been hosting Aam Aadmi (The Common Man) on Samaa TV.
Hussain told Newsweek he was unable to comment, as the case is currently sub judice. However, he confirmed the National Assembly Standing Committee on Rules of Procedure and Privileges had lodged an FIR against him.
Chaudhry Asadur Rehman, chairman of the 22-member committee, defended the decision, claiming action had to be taken against “anyone who breaches” the privileges granted to an MNA. “He [Hussain] delayed the takeoff by 15 minutes and he offended our leaders. The committee elected to properly investigate the matter,” he added.
Hussain’s so-called “breach” was widely supported across Pakistan, bringing to the fore the country’s disdain for the undue privilege accorded to ‘VIPs’. Shortly after reports of the FIR went public, Pakistanis protested the decision on social media using the hashtag #WeStandWithArjumandHussain. Sen. Rehman Malik also took pains to clarify he had no part in the FIR to avoid the public backlash. “Pl. [sic] stop misreporting/do not attribute the FIR to me as this latest action agst [sic] Arjmand [sic] is by NA. Please verify before tweeting/reporting.”
The plaintiff of the FIR, PIA Station Manager Baqir Noorani, refused to comment when contacted by Newsweek.
Dr. Vankhwanvi, however, told Newsweek the FIR was justly deserved. “He wronged me. I should’ve been the plaintiff but I let him go,” he said. The lawmaker, however, dismissed rumors that the government was pressuring police to take action against Hussain. “If government pressure was behind this, the FIR would have been lodged the first day,” he said.